Researcher seek carp-specific toxin

The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Asian carp researchers seek ‘bio-bullet’ 
Biologist Jon Amberg has spent the last two years obsessed with fish guts, laboring over a singular challenge: Develop a poison pill that will kill Asian carp and leave other fish unscathed.

Voracious and freakishly resilient, the fish has left a trail of destruction on its decades-long migration up the Mississippi River and into Illinois, seemingly undeterred by the ordinary ammo of invasive species warfare.

Now, designer drugs and engineered poisons, often called “bio-bullets,” have become increasingly popular among scientists trying to create sniper-shot solutions to unyielding problems, from malignant pests in rivers and fields to tumors in human bodies.

“If you look at Asian carp as being kind of like a cancer, we’re in essence developing a drug to be able to target it without killing the ‘cells’ around it,” said Amberg, who works for theU.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wis.

Akin to chemotherapy, attempts to chemically control Asian carp today would require dumping thousands of gallons of pesticide into waterways, possibly harming other aquatic life. By contrast, an Asian carp bio-bullet would theoretically deliver toxins specifically to silver and bighead carp in a digestible microsize particle, about the width of a human hair.
–The Chicago Tribune

Save these dates:
 Thursday, April 12. The Freshwater Society celebrates spring with an  Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser at the Lafayette Club. Don’t miss the loon-calling  competition. Get more information.

 Tuesday, April 19. Dick Osgood, Executive Director of the Lake Minnetonka Association, will present a state-of-the-lake status report on challenges facing Lake Minnetonka. The presentation will focus particularly on aquatic invasive species.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Drive in Excelsior. It is sponsored by the South Tonka chapter of the League of Women Voters. Co-sponsors are: the Freshwater Society, the Lake Minnetonka Association, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and Minnesota Waters.

Conservation inextricably linked to Farm Bill
Brian DeVore from the Land Stewardship Project recently wrote a fine Star Tribune op-ed on the federal Farm Bill and crop insurance. The column argues that crop insurance, as it currently is structured, encourages farmers to plant crops on marginal land. DeVore encourages Congress to, once again, make compliance with minimum conservation standards a requirement for the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.

Read DeVore’s Star Tribune op-ed. Read the longer article in the Land Stewardship Project Letter from which the op-ed was adapted. Read a column on the same subject last fall by Freshwater society president Gene Merriam.

Pelicans recovering in Minnesota
Flocks of giant white birds are catching the eyes of birders and outdoor enthusiasts across Minnesota as once-rare American White Pelicans return to their summer nesting grounds at 16 sites across the state, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The pelicans were driven to near extinction in the early 20th century from human pressures. There were no reports of nesting pelicans in Minnesota for 90 years, from 1878 until 1968.

However, conservation efforts led by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program along with federal regulations have helped pelican populations make a slow and steady comeback. In Minnesota, there are estimated to be about 22,000 pairs of pelicans that nest at 16 sites on seven lakes across the state.

“The Prairie Pothole Region of western Minnesota hosts 22 percent of the global population of this species, making it a stewardship species,” said Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR nongame wildlife specialist.
–DNR News Release

Live Asian carp seized at Canadian border
Canadian authorities say 14,000 pounds of live Asian carp were seized at the U.S.-Canadian border, the third such seizure in less than two months.

Canadian border patrol agents at the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario, in Canada made the seizure Feb. 28, The Detroit News reported. The seizure, the fifth in the last year, involved fish from farms in the southern United States bound for markets in Toronto, where the invasive species is popular in Asian cuisine, officials said.

Possessing live Asian carp in Ontario has been illegal since 2005, and while it is legal to possess live carp in the United States, transporting them across state lines is prohibited.

MPCA offers truckers loans to cut air pollution 
With diesel fuel prices climbing to $4 per gallon, low-interest loans are available to help Minnesota long-haul truckers save money, stay cool this summer and reduce pollution on overnight rest stops.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers loans at 4 percent to owner-operated long-haul truckers and small trucking companies to purchase idle-reduction devices.

These auxiliary power units, or APUs, are either small, 15-horsepower diesel engines or battery pack systems that can run air conditioning, heaters and electricity to power laptops while the truck’s main engine is shut off.

Paul Ahles, long-haul truck owner-operator, used his new APU on an older truck for nine months and estimated he’s saving $500 per month in fuel idling costs even after deducting a loan payment and fuel and maintenance costs.

Ahles averages about 266 hours of idling per month. Long-haul trucks consume about one gallon of fuel per hour while idling. But a diesel APU will use only one-fifth as much.
–The Brainerd Dispatch

Cottage Groves OKs 3M filtration plan 
The Cottage Grove City Council recently approved a 3M site plan proposal to construct a filtration facility to clean chemically-tainted water before it is re-used or pumped into the Mississippi River.

Seven groundwater extraction wells pump millions of gallons of 3M-manufactured perfluorochemical-tainted water per day from underneath a former 3M dumpsite near the Woodbury-Cottage Grove border. From there it is piped six miles south to the 3M Cottage Grove facility. There, it flows untreated into the Mississippi River.

As part of a 2009 Minnesota Pollution Control decision related to cleanup of east metro PFC groundwater contamination, 3M has proposed to build a carbon filtration facility to clean that water before it is re-used at the Cottage Grove facility or piped into a river cove.
–The South Washington County Bulletin

Moose hunt to continue this fall
Minnesota hunters will still have the chance to shoot moose this fall, state officials announced.

The moose population remains in steady decline, but scientists and wildlife managers agree that a limited hunt of males would not significantly change the number of animals because there are plenty of bulls to impregnate cows. “I don’t think it’ll matter at all,” said Rolf Peterson, a researcher from the Isle Royale moose-wolf study who chairs the state’s moose advisory committee.

The decision by the Department of Natural Resources to issue 87 moose tags – a reduction from past years – comes as adult moose continue to die off faster than young moose are growing into their ranks. The current population in the northeastern part of the state is estimated, based on aerial surveys, at 4,230 animals, down from 4,900 last year and 8,840 in 2006.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

EPA steps back from ‘fracking’ order 
The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an order requiring a natural gas drilling company to provide water for two North Texas families based on accusations that the company contaminated water wells.

The EPA said its decision regarding Range Resources drilling in Parker County allows the agency to shift the focus “away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction.”

Range was accused of contaminating water with benzene, methane and other toxic gases through a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing. The process involves breaking up rock with chemical-laced water to free previously out-of-reach natural gas.

The Fort Worth company and the Texas Railroad Commission argued the contamination came from other natural causes.
–Business Week

Congress considers cormorant clash
To hear the fishermen around Lake Waconia tell it, the ancient black cormorants that congregate on the lake’s Coney Island in the summer are the scourge of the fishes and trees. To naturalists who see the native Minnesota birds as unloved relations of the revered loon, it’s all a big fish tale.

A congressional panel was left to sort it all out, hearing a bill by two of Minnesota’s leading outdoors-men and congressmen that would give the state wider latitude to shoot some of the federally protected birds. That’s already the standard method of culling cormorant flocks that have hurt fisheries in Leech Lake and other popular recreational areas.

Now Carver County’s Lake Waconia — the metro area’s second-largest lake — is ground zero in the battle against a bird long derided for its ability to dive, propel itself underwater and eat prized fish that humans like to put on their dinner plates.
–The Star Tribune

Low water keeps White Bear beach closed
Low water levels have closed one of the most popular swimming beaches in the north metro area for the fourth summer in a row.

The Ramsey County Parks Department recently announced Ramsey Beach off Highway 96 in White Bear Lake will be closed to swimming during the summer of 2012. Signs have been posted warning swimmers to stay out of the water.

“It’s highly likely we’re not going to open it again this summer,” said Director of Park Services and Operations Jody Yungers. “Unfortunately the water levels are too low.”

The White Bear Lake water level has dropped more than 5 feet below its ordinary high water mark since 2009. The decrease has exposed hundreds of feet of open beach and move the water line close to a dramatic drop off. Yungers said swimmers would encounter an 8-foot drop-off just a few feet from the shoreline. The drop-off would create dangerous conditions for inexperienced swimmers.
 –The White Bear Press